Sophocles’ final adieu to his age

The Spyros A. Evangelatos Amphi-Theater company, one of the country’s most established and respected private ensembles, will travel to the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus to take part in the annual festival of ancient drama tonight and tomorrow, with a production of Sophocles’ «Oedipus at Colonus.» The production is dedicated to the memory of actor Alexis Minotis who, according to Evangelatos, «brought so much life to this character for over 30 years.» In a note to the press, the founder and director of the 30-year-old theater company notes that he wanted this production to bring ancient drama back to basics and to involve the audience in the theatrical process, as was the case in antiquity. The production unites some of the country’s most respected veteran talent: The translation into Modern Greek is by K.H. Myris; the direction is by Evangelatos; the sets and costumes have been designed by Agnes Doutsi and the music is by Periklis Koukos. The title role is performed by another veteran of the stage, Christos Kalavrouzos, who is joined by Costas Athanassopoulos as Theseus, Spyros Mavidis as the Herald, Maria Kehayioglou as Antigone, Giorgos Bougos as Creon and Angeliki Petkou as Ismene. The director notes that the entire performance takes place without microphone amplification. Sophocles took up the legend of Oedipus in the twilight of his own life and presents his tragic hero as on old man. He portrays the death of the protagonist not as he would the death of a regular person, because at this stage of his life the ancient tragedian was looking for a way to bridge the gap between the mortal and the divine. According to the production’s director, «This is the only one of the surviving ancient dramas where the death of the tragic hero is not cause for sadness, but leads to his ‘ascension,’ to his sanctification and, by extension, to the vindication of all those who sinned despite themselves and paid a heavy toll during their earthly lives.» In «Oedipus at Colonus,» the old, blind Oedipus has spent many years wandering in exile after being rejected by his sons and the city of Thebes. «’Oedipus at Colonus’ is a grand hymn on pointless, senseless human suffering. The hero is innocent of the sacrilege he has committed because he ‘knew not what he did,’» said Evangelatos. The formerly mighty king has only been cared for by his daughters Antigone and Ismene. He arrives at a sacred grove at Colonus, a village close to Athens (and the home of Sophocles himself). There, Oedipus is guaranteed protection. «We are calling on all the loyal patrons of ancient drama to join us at Epidaurus – without ado, without the rolling of drums. There are those older and younger artists who serve the spirit of the ancient plays, who are trying to give back to the audience its participatory role in the messages these great works have to convey,» says Evangelatos. «In this play – which is most likely, chronologically speaking, the last great work of ancient Greek drama – it is as if we, in retrospect, are witnessing the poet’s final adieu to his age, to an age that gave rise to philosophy, democracy, theater, historiography, and classical sculpture and architecture. It is an anguished, yet triumphant, requiem to a century that marked the birth of the European spirit, to the elation that is forever lost,» he added. «The feel of ‘Oedipus at Colonus’ reminds me of the feel of Beethoven’s last quartets. There too you have a sense that a demigod is communing with the great Unknown.» The Epidaurus Festival of Ancient Drama is part of the Hellenic Festival, which provides transportation by cruise boat to the ancient theater. For information and reservations, tel 210.928.2900.